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Live from DNC: It’s Zombietime! (Day 2)

Radicals rioted, police fought back, and Zombie captured it all! Latest: A Big Mosque in the Center of Denver

by
Zombie

Bio

August 26, 2008 - 10:28 am

6:10 pm PST — A Big Mosque in the Center of Denver

Crossposted at Little Green Footballs

I first arrived in Denver’s Civic Center Park expecting to see hordes of anarchists and protesters. Instead, I was confronted with…

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…this huge mosque made of translucent fabric.

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It was put together by a group called “Pictures of You,” which is (according to its flier) part of The Manjushri Project.

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The mosque is composed of photographic portraits of Iranians which can be viewed from either side. For some reason, a preponderance of the portraits depicted attractive young Iranian women. I wonder why.

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“Pictures of You” handed out fliers with a quote by the Sufi poet Rumi, whom they said was their inspiration. The lines in Rumi’s poem are addressed to “you,” and the Manjushri Project folks want us to believe that “you” means the reader, but of course Rumi was actually addressing God. But in this “it’s all about me!” modern world we inhabit, the marketing team (correctly) calculated that Americans would think Rumi was addressing them personally.

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The purpose of the exhibit was “transparently” to arouse sympathy for the Iranian people and discourage any US military action aimed at stopping the Iranian government from getting a nuclear bomb. Or so it seemed to me.

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And it’s a great bonus to have an excuse to plop a big mosque in the center of Denver, temporary though it might be.

12: 15 pm PST — Liveblogging from the Kos Tent with Dan Rather

I’m sitting in “The Big Tent,” a “space” co-sponsored by Daily Kos for “alternative media.” RIght now, as I type, Dan Rather is standing about 8 feet above my head, giving some longwinded diatribe about media ethics to a room half full of Kos supporters.

12:38
Despite the fact that this building/tent/“space” is supposed to be for the little guy, the blogger, the citizens journalists excluded from the mainstream media tent at the Pepsi Center, it is just as elitist and exclusionary.

12:39
One has to have registered long beforehand and/or paid a fee to gain admission, and been vetted for approval by the “Big Tent” staff — I presume people like me would probably have been excluded for ideological reasons.

12:39
Luckily, I was able to charm my way in under a different persona

12:41
It’s extremely crowded with left-wing bloggers and “new media” types. Everyone is (like me) frantically posting things to their blogs. Nonprofits have little booths around the room handed out freebies.

12:41
Me, I’m mainly here for the free wi-fi connection. I gave Dan Rather about 10 minutes of my life before bailing out. Utterly tedious. And without the stage makeup, he’s a little haggard.

12:42
So, what’s happened today so far?

12:42
I started the day off at Civic Center Park once again, where there were a variety of scheduled protests. But as always, it was the unscheduled that took priority.

12:44
A group of anti-homosexual Christian activists set up camp right in the middle of the radical leftist protesters, and began shouting about Sodom and Gomorrahe through megaphones. These were the exact same guys I saw at the Tookie Williams execution and the “Walk for Life” in San Francisco.

12:45
As with those other events, they were quickly surrounded by detractors. The Christians were actually quite humourous in their shpiel, even though I disagree with them and think they’re a bit nuts.

Before long, a communist cult member (couldn’t tell which group he was with — the Wobblies or World Can’t Wait or something), tried to attack them

12:46
The police rushed in and arrested the communist for trying to get violent against the Christians, and dragged him off with a horse-cop mounted police escort.

12:48
Needless to say, this send the assembled crowd of radicals into a frenzy, and an equestrian-human melee ensued

12:48
The cops ended up literally trotting in circles around the arrestee and the officers holding him

12:49
It was like a scene out of the wild west – - very appropriate for Denver!

12:49
The horses served to scare away the hundreds of would-be “rescuers” of the arrested guy.

12:50
Then reinforcements showed up and carried him away to jail in a off-road vehicle. In the concomitant frenzy, a young protest girl wearing pink was knocked to the ground by a cop when she ventured too close

12:50
Oops, dan rather just came in

12:50
He’s five feet from me

12:50
Hi dan!
Cameras are following him

12:51
the media are descending on him

12:51
within ten seconds, he has 20 photographers encircling him

12:52
Now there are 30

12:52
He’s a real celebrity around here!

12:52
Anyway, where was I?

12:52
Oh yes — the girl.
She fell to the ground and acted like she was dead or unconscious

After playing dead to arouse sympathy, she suddenly hopped up when everyone was looking elsewhere

12:54
Then I went to the next scheduled event: a pro-Hillary march.

12:54
About 400 rabid Hillary supporters. They were angry!

12:54
I got photos of that.

12:55
Then I followed the Giant Puppets parade for a while, and came here.

12:55
That’s it for today so far!

12:55
More later.

Ta ta from Denver…
Recreate 68 Finally Lives Up to Its Name: Riot in Denver
Crossposted at Little Green Footballs

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Unstoppable force:…

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…meet immovable object.

But wait: how did we get to this point?

Word had disseminated among the protest crowd that there was to be an “Anti-capitalist march” as well as a “Meet-up for Fundraiser Disruption” jopintly announced by Recreate 68 and DNC Disruption 08, two radical groups dedicated to causing problems at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. A notice online said, “Interested parties will gather at 6pm at civic center park” where “top-secret information on a couple of the choicest fundraisers and parties in Denver” was to be handed out. Then, “at the appointed time monday night, we’ll emerge from the shadows to reconvene in downtown and get down and dirty.”

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So every anarchist and ne’er-do-well in Denver gathered in Civic Center Park at 6pm sharp, looking for action. Problem was, no action was immediately forthcoming.

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Everybody milled around for over an hour, wondering what was supposed to happen. Glen Spagnulo and Mark Cohen, the head honchos of Recreate 68, weren’t revealing anything, even though many people pestered them with questions.

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An unfortunate side effect of announcing your riot on the Internet is that the police can see the announcement as well. As a result, squads of cops milled through the crowd, looking for troublemakers.

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Some of the radicals had collected urine in bags (seen at the bottom of this photo) to later throw at the police (seen at the top).

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Finally a horn was sounded and a jolt of excitement moved through the crowd. Finally, the moment had arrived! Hundreds of anarchists formed a procession…

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…and started heading in the direction of downtown Denver.

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But the police were obviously on strict orders to not let these rioters anywhere even near the fundraisers and delegate parties being held in upscale hotels and restaurants just a few blocks away. They formed a blockade to stop the procession from advancing.

Which is where we were at the top of this report. Now, moving forward…

The first confrontation between the cops and the anarchists was very brief — less than half a minute, with decisive victory for the cops, who drove the anarchists (and hapless photographers) back. [Video coming soon!]

It was during this first encounter that someone (a policeman trying to drive back the onrushing crowd, presumably) let loose a blast of pepper spray, some of which got in my left eye and throat.

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The anarchists tried to turn around and leave the park from a different direction, and bumped smack into a smaller and more easily overwhelmed cluster of police. The first screams and thwacks of violence were heard and everyone came running.

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It seems everyone had a camera — there was no clear distinction between rioter, journalist and bystander. (A fact which led to serious problems for me later.)

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Someone had gotten into a scuffle with the police and was being arrested. Everyone screamed “Police brutality” and tried to stop the arrest. Reinforcement police formed a protective cordon around the arresting officers.

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Here’s the first arrestee, face down on the asphalt, being handcuffed. I didn’t see what he had done.

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A substantial number of the cops were policewomen, which surprised me. They seemed just as tough as the men.

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By now huge number of reinforcements had shown up (on both sides of the conflict), and police took decisive action to retake the street and keep the crowd contained within Civic Center Park. They waded into the crowd in full riot gear…

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And pushed us back into the park.

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Some of the anarchists formed a line and began jumping up and down and chanting.

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The police formed a riot line that was by now at least ten times as large as their original squad.

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Faced with an impenetrable wall, the anarchists en masse suddenly turned and sprinted across the park and out the other side into the streets. It wasn’t the direction that was originally planned, but I think the idea was to loop back around to to fundraisers and delegate parties once we were free of the cordon.

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The crowd of people participating in or documenting the riot had also grown considerably, and included many people, such as this young woman (and myself) who were not actual anarchists, but rather just observing what was happening. Little did we know that we were getting ourselves into a pickle.

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Because when the crowd reached the end of the next block, a row of well-armed mounted police and riot squad members were waiting for us — as if they had known ahead of time we were going to run in this direction.

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I tried to slip past the line of cops, to transition from being an observer within the riot to being on the outside looking in — but no such luck — the police would not let me by, despite my entreaties and insistence that I was not one of the anarchists.

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Soon the first sprinters reached the police blockade, and were similarly rebuffed.

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Within a few seconds several hundred rioters ran straight into the police wall and were driven back. Behind us, the pursuing police would not let us exit the other direction. We were trapped! No way out, as the city block we were on (I believe it was 15th Street betwen Cleveland and Court) was lined with closed office buildings that were also inaccessible and impenetrable.

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Denied their primary targets, the anarchists made do with what they had: some began spraypainting slogans on the walls. This guy was writing “We’re taking St. Paul next!”

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This woman, who had been standing near me, got a full blast of pepper spray right in the eyes.

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The crowd roiled and seethed, but had nowhere to go.

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Little by little, the cops inched forward from both sides, squeezing us in a vise.

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They soon had us confined on one side of the street.

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No amount of cajoling could convince the cops to let anyone through.

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One of my fellow internees had run into some kind of violence (I didn’t see what) and was pouring out blood.

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Someone else had gotten teargassed pretty badly, and some anarchist medics were trying to help him with water and eye-wash solutions. He was moaning in pain.

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Other people were not in physical pain but instead were having panic attacks and freaking out. The medics tried to calm them down too.

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As night fell, some of the rioters tried to convince the police they were harmless by sitting down en masse and flashing peace signs.

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An hour or two passed, and by now it was nighttime. The police were not letting anyone out of our human cage. I tried once again to charm my way through the line; my attempt was met with nothing but a stony stare.

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Recreate 68 leader Glenn Spagnulo was with us, and took the opportunity to give interviews to some radical media types.

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Every time I tried to escape, I was physically driven back. At this stage I was quite sure I was going to be arrested along with everyone else and spend the rest of the convention in jail.

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Finally, after who-knows-how long, a cry of joy went up: They were releasing people! We all raised our arms above our heads to show we meant no harm (often accompanied by peace signs), and we slowly moved toward a gap in the riot line.

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I had no idea what precipitated this reprieve, but I was as relieved as anyone that we (at least some of us) were being let go scot-free.

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Once out in the freedom of downtown Denver, many of the former rioters let out whoops of joy.

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But the crisis was far from over. More police were arriving every minute.

I was torn between hanging around to see what more happened, and leaving, in order to file this report.

I opted for the latter.

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